Nun arrested for donation scam 

While charity scams are common in Thailand, a religious figure allegedly being the kingpin of one definitely raised eyebrows. 

Recently, Ms. Isaaree a.k.a. Ou, a “nun” at Phra Phutsikkhi Meditation Centre in Nakhon Panom was arrested for extorting ฿10 million (~USD320,000) from 400 community members. 

More lighthearted police cases:

Donors were promised gold in return

A huge part of Buddhist culture is merit making. Contributing to Phra Pa sets – which look like money trees -, for the maintenance of holy sites such as temples and the well-being of nuns and monks is one popular method.

Thai “Nun” Allegedly Ran ~$320K Scam That Affected 400 People, Gets Arrested For Fraud
Example of a Phra pha set
Image credit: Kasetsart University

So, when asked to donate funds or Phra Pa to the temple’s Covid-19 relief fund, well-intentioned locals thought nothing of it and opted to help. However, Ms. Isaaree had another incentive for community members to contribute: she told them that they would receive gold in return for each set of Phra Pa given to the meditation centre. There were two other nuns that helped to facilitate donations, reported The Thaiger

Thai “Nun” Allegedly Ran ~$320K Scam That Affected 400 People, Gets Arrested For Fraud Image credit: One 31 News

These donations continued on for several months, until one of the victims noticed that none of them had received the promised gold. They decided to press charges against the “nun”, who was then arrested. Further investigations showed that Nun Ou and her accomplices pocketed about ฿3,500 (~USD111) from each set of Phra Pa.

“Nun” denies charges against her

During their visit to the meditation centre, the police noticed that the facility had expanded by seven rai, or three acres – part of the expansion space was used as a pavilion that currently houses and displays golden Buddha statues.

Thai “Nun” Allegedly Ran ~$320K Scam That Affected 400 People, Gets Arrested For Fraud Golden Buddha statues
Image credit: One 31 News

As if religious figures pocketing ฿10 million (~USD320,000) from a scam wasn’t enough of a shock to the community, the Chief of the Provincial Buddhism Office stated that Ms. Isaaree did not hold any official religious titles, and was therefore not even a nun.

Ms. Isaaree continues to deny any allegations of fraud, and claims the money wasn’t in possession of her – enlightenment was always her primary main goal.

 Thai “Nun” Allegedly Ran ~$320K Scam That Affected 400 People, Gets Arrested For Fraud Ms. Isaaree
Image credit: One 31 News

The two nuns that helped sway community members into donating, Ms. Arunee Chanthanam and Ms. Pailin Sunthornsuwan, were also arrested and taken in for further questioning.

Generosity can sometimes be dangerous 

Merit making is deeply rooted in Thai Buddhist traditions; and many people are eager to open their hearts and wallets to lend a helping hand especially in difficult times like these. While generosity is a virtue, it’s also worth checking that donated funds are going to a good cause.

Check out more of these police cases: 

Cover images adapted from: One 31 News (Left), Thai Post (Right)

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